Yes, it's November 11, Pepero Day in Korea, a sort of Valentine's Day where everyone buys their significant others Pepero, a brand of Korean chocolate-dipped cookie-stick Pocky clones. All because the date 11/11 clearly resembles...four Pepero sticks. In short, it's Valentine's Day with a corporate monopoly on the only acceptable unit of gift exchange (or, for the more practical-minded, a Valentine's Day where the expected gift is already chosen for you!).
Wikipedia offers two competing theories for how the holiday started. One is that it was conceived and marketed by the company who makes Pepero: Lotte--one of the chaebols, the giant multinational conglomerates (including LG, Samsung, and Hyundai) that anchor Korea's economy and hold its political stage with such transparent Cosa Nostran heft and influence that the word chaebol literally translates as both "family business" and "monopoly". (Lotte denies having hatched the holiday.) The other explanation is that it was started by a class of middle school girls in Busan in 1994 who exchanged them to well-wish each other to grow "as tall and slender as a Pepero." In other words, Korea's indigenous Valentine's Day equivalent was either founded by 1) conspiratorial capitalists or 2) middle school girls whose ideal body image was a cookie stick.
(Lest you think the Korean people are being deprived of the pure and innocent, completely non-commercialized REAL Valentine's Day, rest assured--Wikipedia informs me that Korea celebrates Real Valentine's Day with such fervor that they do it for three months in a row--first, on the 14th of February when the girls give the guys a modest gift; then, all over again on the 14th of March when the guys must give their girls a much more expensive gift; and once more on the 14th of April, when singles traditionally get together to eat noodles with black soybean paste--although whether this is in celebration or communal commiseration I have yet to confirm.)
I had actually stumbled upon the existence of Pepero Day on Wikipedia a year or two ago, but had completely forgotten about it until yesterday, when I started getting Peppero as gifts from my students, and in a rather astonishing variety for someone boring like me whose idea of changing things up is opting for the pink strawberry boxes instead of the plain red chocolate ones in the snacks aisle back home at United Noodles. Some of the species of Peppero I encountered were monstrously large--the length of my forearm and as thick as my thumb; some were what are called "nude" (or, in Korean, "noo-duh"--which reminds me of the Qdoba's radio ad we always heard in Grand Forks in which two college girls dialogue, "You should try Qdoba's naked burrito." "Did you say...naked?"), with the roles of the cookie and chocolate reversed--a cookie crust on the outside surrounding the chocolate on the inside; and still others with the chocolate coating, the cookie underneath, and then inside the cookie, more chocolate cream. AMAZING.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009 | Posted by Mark Z at 1:40 PM |